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Photo courtesy of Tony Reed

When Tony Reed turned 8 years old, he was diagnosed with a pre-diabetic condition and instructed that he’d need to go on insulin at some juncture of his life. More than 50 years later, that hasn’t materialized.

Reed — who was born and raised in St. Louis before graduating from Webster University in 1978 with bachelor’s degrees in management and mathematics — committed to an active and healthy lifestyle at a young age. He hasn’t looked back since.

Now 61, Reed has completed 129 marathons, including one in every U.S. state. In 2007, he became the first African-American to run a marathon on all seven continents. Reed has finished 54 of the 26.2-mile races in Texas alone, as he’s lived in the Dallas-Fort Worth area since 1978. While attending Webster, Reed said he set a lifetime goal of averaging three miles per day of “running, walking or crawling.” Since he began tracking his runs in 1979, Reed has logged more than 43,000 miles to meet that three-mile-per-day quota.

Reed is a co-founder and executive director of the National Black Marathoners Association, a recent inductee into the National Black Distance Running Hall of Fame and a member of the board of directors for both the Dallas Marathon and Running USA. He’s an independent business consultant and renowned speaker and author with six children as well as six grandchildren.

And as Reed will be quick to remind you, through it all and better than five decades later: “I’m still not on insulin.”

  • “Running is something I can do any place, any time, almost anywhere. I don’t need anyone else to do it along with me unlike, for example, sports such as tennis. I can burn a lot of calories in a very short period of time. I also enjoy just being outdoors, and running definitely puts me outdoors. I’ve very rarely run on a treadmill. Out of 43,000 miles, probably less than 10 miles have been on a treadmill. We jokingly call it the ‘dreadmill.’”
  • “I wasn’t very good at distance running (in high school). In fact, I basically was horrible. I came in 142nd place out of 143 in my first cross-country meet. I remember going through the finishing chute, and the lady made a comment — she goes, ‘Oh, you mean there are still people out on the course?’ But I didn’t let what she said discourage me.”
  • “I had a business trip in Europe, and I was going to take advantage of being over there to run a marathon. With that, I got the second continent (after North America) out of the way. I always wanted to run a marathon on my 50th birthday. Since there were only two marathons in the world that were held on my birthday (that year), I opted to go to Australia, which led to the third continent. While I was in Australia, I had the race application for the Antarctica Marathon in my pocket. When we got off the tour bus at a forest in Australia, we walked up to a tree and the guide said, ‘This is the Antarctic Tree.’ I just said, ‘OK, this must be an omen. I have the Antarctica race application in my pocket, and we just walked up to the Antarctica Tree.’ At that point, I decided I was going to go for the seven continents.”

  • Photo courtesy of Tony Reed
  • “After we ran the Antarctica Marathon, we spent six or seven days touring. One of the things we would do is get in these little boats called Zodiacs. They’re kind of like a rubber raft and can hold about eight people. All of the sudden, two 65-ton humpback whales started swimming around us and between the Zodiacs. It was one of those experiences — it’s just unbelievable. It’s one thing to see a whale or animal on television, and it’s another thing to see it up close and personal. We just hoped the whales would not tip over one of the boats. The whales swam by and as they passed, one blew its spout. It was really cool to be that close to a whale while that was happening.”
  • “The day before the (Safaricom Lewa Marathon in Kenya), we toured the course. And on the course we saw some rhinos, which were going to be roaming free during the race. We saw three cheetahs, which were also going to be roaming free during the race. We knew it was going to be a very, very interesting run. The aid-station workers were protected by people with AK-47s. That was about the only time you were really what I would call ‘feeling very safe’ on the marathon course. I was able to make it through alive, and they didn’t lose anyone. My clothes from that marathon are with the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C. My race number and the seven-continents medal are also at that Smithsonian museum.”
  • “I’m the co-founder and executive director of the National Black Marathoners Association, and one of the things we try to do is dispel the myth of African-Americans running distances. We’re traditionally told we only run sprints. I realized there were two myths I wanted to destroy: One is we don’t run marathons, and the second is we don’t travel. I wanted to try to expose people to the fact that as African-Americans, we can travel. We do travel. And just really try to open up the doors. As they say, there are things people never think about doing until they know someone else has done them. Since I finished running marathons on the seven continents, there are — I believe — 12 blacks in the world who have done it. And I have met all 12.”
  • “I worked with a gentleman while I was in high school who — over the course of about a six-year period — lost his eye due to glaucoma, started getting his toes and leg amputated and ultimately lost his life due to complications associated with diabetes. I don’t think he was even 45 when he passed away. I wanted a better quality of life. I wanted to be able to walk my daughter down the aisle when she got married. I wanted to see my kids graduate from high school and college, and even see my grandchildren graduate from high school and college. So, that’s the reason why I’m still running.”

  • Photo courtesy of Tony Reed
  • “It meant the world to me (being inducted into the National Black Distance Running Hall of Fame). It kind of lets people know you don’t necessarily have to be the fastest person out there. But if you’re committed to something, just some amazing things can happen. If I had listened to the guys who said I was too big to run a marathon when I ran my first one, I never would have achieved all the different things I have in distance running. I jokingly said, ‘They have people who have come in first place in the Hall of Fame, and I’m probably the only person who came in dead last in a marathon in the Hall of Fame.’ We span the entire spectrum. There’s room for everyone in between.”
  • “When you die, there’s going to be one line in your obituary that talks about the company where you worked. The rest of it is going to be about the things you enjoyed doing in life. I would never want them to say I just enjoyed going to work every day. I had this amazing and wonderful life outside of work. I just want to share that with other people. I want other people to have that same type of feeling.”